Saturday, November 29, 2008

Are Daily Progress Limits Good?



Greenwiz is now exalted with the Kalu'ak. In order to win over these Walrus people, I have made it a point of visiting their villages for the past two weeks and:
1. Facilitating sea lion fornication. (See here for a picture.)
2. Supplying what must only be a black market trade in Wolvar puppy fur/meat - the questgiver swears he wants to protect the little puppies, but there is literally no room in the village for the 200+ puppies that I personally have delivered him.
3. Retrieving supplies from a village that has been under 24 hour continuous siege since the expansion went live, and will continue to be under siege until the day Blizzard finally turns off the WoW servers for good. I'm prepared to accept that there are literally infinite Walrus people to come defend their terrain, but what I don't get is who, exactly, is restocking these supplies once a day?

These three tasks collectively award 1500 reputation each day. There are enough non-repeatable quests to get most of the way to revered, so you're basically looking at obtaining the 21,000 rep required for the trek from revered-> exalted. That's two weeks, with a little extra time to finish out revered and/or if you miss a day.

The merits of daily progress
The ultimate goal of developers is to keep players paying to play the game. This means coming up with treadmills that players will voluntarily do. From the dev standpoint, the daily quest is the perfect compromise. The rep isn't that hard to accomplish, even for players with limited gaming time, so the sheer difficulty isn't enough to deter players from finishing. However, they still get to ensure that it's going to be X months before a player runs out of stuff to do.

In return, the players get enforced breaks from the rep grind, and generally an easier rep curve - compare the Kalu'ak to the once notorious Wintersaber Trainer grind. Even after having been nerfed repeatedly, the Wintersaber grind quests award half of what Kalu'ak quests do, AND players start all the way down at Neutral with no non-repeatable quests to get through nearly half of the grind. However, these quests are repeatable, rather than daily, and thus a dedicated player could go out and finish the content TODAY (well, probably several days from now, given the sheer number of kills required, but you get the idea). If this faction had been made during the Daily quest era, the same quests might be Daily for 500 rep instead of unlimited for 250 rep.

The same principle applies to the new Inscription discovery system. There are 60 minor glyphs, and you can discover a random recipe once a day for a small number of extremely low level herbs - your level 10 alt can get you whatever minor glyphs you need, provided you're willing to wait for up to 60 days to learn the recipe.

The Cost of Missing a Day
The unfortunate price of the guaranteed meal ticket for the developers is player flexibility. If you can't log on today, or if you DO have time to play but choose not to spend it on daily quests you've done a dozen times, you'll just have to move the day you finish the grind back one spot on the calendar. It's still your choice, obviously, but it's not a fun one.

As I've noted previously, I've definitely been steering my Wrath questing time towards quests that award reputations I want. I can go back and finish the other non-repeatable quests in the game whenever I want, but there's no way to make up for the weeks of lost headstart towards the daily quest grind if I save all the dailies for level 80. The problems get worse if you're trying to juggle a few games. It's entirely possible to get to the point where the only rewards you're working for come from rare daily quest drops. At that point, you don't have enough to do in, for example, WoW, to justify having that be the ONLY game you're playing, but the time spent running the handful of dailies in the morning can be enough to make a big hit to the time you'd be spending on any new game.

Mythic encountered this problem full on with their Heavy Metal event. The goal was to have a daily task that allowed progress towards rewards that included early access to the new tanking classes. By most accounts, the goals have been pretty successful, but Mythic had to quietly change the "daily" portion of the event twice. First they agreed to roll out the entire second week's events at once to accommodate the Thanksgiving Holiday in the US and then they had to go back an allow players to complete the events retroactively. Because the rewards required that players not miss a single day's event, Mythic HAD to make these changes, or effectively tell players to give up if they were going to miss even a single day. Now, though, there's no reason why a player couldn't just log in and complete all the events in a single day.

Striking a balance
There's no question that what we have now in WoW and other games (I know EQ2's current expansion has daily/weekly missions, and LOTRO has repeatable quests with cooldowns that aren't literally daily but achieve the same end) is better than what we used to have. But what we have is far from perfect.

My wife just asked me what I was blogging about, given that I haven't had much time to play this week. (Almost all of that time was spent keeping up with the Daily quest grind.) I explained the post I was writing, and she asked why we'd want to do the same daily quest even 30 times in the first place. This is why I named the blog Player Vs Developer - there is a conflict between the players' desire for new content/rewards and the devs desire for retaining subscriptions. The two sides of this equation aren't necessarily 100% opposed to each other - both sides ultimately win if the game is good - but there's a balance to be struck.

Do the current daily quests have it? For me, the answer is apparently yes, since I'm doing them. Am I so happy with the system that that I won't ditch Wrath's endgame rep grind if another game comes along that's more interesting? Blizzard shouldn't bet on it.

4 comments:

DeeKow said...

Some games take the daily progress even further. Example, LotRO putting a hard cap on the trait progressions per day. You earn up to a certain amount of progress every day; after that hard limit, you're done.

Daily progress is a tricky thing. When I first heard of daily quests in WoW, I kinda snickered... then when I got to 70, I was punching the clock right with everyone else. It's better than no system to keep us enticed to play longer than the physical time it takes us to do the quests once, but I'm really hoping something better comes along soon.

SolidState said...

Great post.
From the dev side, I think there is a lot of room for development in daily quests. From the player side, I think players can maximize their fun from daily quests and minimize the grind effect.

Regarding further development of daily quests. I, for example, enjoy the cooking daily quests because there are several of them and you get a random one each day. I would like to see this system extended to all daily quests, thus giving us more variety in the daily quests. Another option would be to add daily quests that only occur at set times, e.g. only on weekends. Yet another option would be to extend the championing system from instances to daily quests so that I could e.g. grind Kalu'ak rep by also doing daily quests for The Wrymrest Accord just by wearing the Kalu'al tabard.

From the player side, I would suggest concentrating on the quests they find more fun, even if it spreads out the time it takes to get to exalted with a faction. Rushing to exalted is almost never worth not having fun since the faction rep rewards are almost all "nice to have", not "omg OP must have".

Ultimately, after all cation rep is exalted (happened to me actually quite quickly on my mage back in TBC), daily quests are just a source of gold.

Anonymous said...

Great timing - today was essentially the first day that I have done daily quests in WotLK, in that it was the second time that I ran each of the quests. I logged in at Wyrmrest (and I want their rep more than any other I have opened up dailies for, at 74), so I defended the temple. Then I did the very evil-seeming wolvar cub daily. Finally, I caught the turtle to the tundra and gathered up supplies.

Obviously, I really need to open up Drake Hunt. I haven't spent much time in the Tundra with my main.

Good, thought-provoking blog post.

Fedaykin98

Green Armadillo said...

@ DeeKow: I thought the limits were just for class skill related traits? I remember activating my various combat cooldowns in town just to make sure the ticker would advance until it went gold for the day, but I don't remember ever hitting a limit on slaughter or quest related deeds.

@ Solid: The new cooking system is primarily in place to ration out Northern Spices, rather than either Gold or Rep, and that's why it gets comparatively more attention. I agree that it's good to have more options, but I'm guessing they don't want to spend that much time on the content.

Being able to champion via Dailies would be interesting, but I can see why they went in the opposite direction. How would you deal with level 70 dailies (such as the Kalu'ak) if they awarded rep for all factions? Honestly, I don't mind the current system that much, since it encourages you to focus on a factions until they are done. Now that I've finished those quests, I'm moving on to the next set (the Argent Crusade, and the Ebon Blade). Once that's over, I'll focus on whichever quests offer the best cash/time ratio (not just the level 80 stuff, in fact, it might be worth trying to speed clear some of the level 70 dailies for cash).

@ Fedaykin: Yeah, Wyrmrest is a good choice to focus on early, since it's a slow but steady grind (500 rep/day) that actually has rewards in the game (unlike, say, the Explorer's League - perhaps they're going into the Ulduar patch?). One could argue that I should have spent the time trying to level faster to get a start on the other slow dailies, but I wanted the penguin and the fishing pole. :)